Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Perspective on UFOs

In the December 2012 issue of Needlearts, Cheryl Christian offers a refreshingly different perspective on UFOs in her article entitled Celebrate the UFO.  She poses the theory that UFOs are merely the tangible evidence left behind in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge by the dedicated student of the textile arts.  She further proposes that rather than viewing them as a Marleyesque drag chain of unfinished projects tied to our ankles and slowing our forward progress, we start to see them as the means by which we have explored new techniques, learned new stitches or finishing procedures, tested new fibers and fabrics or simply discovered what we like and do not like.  In short, she suggests we view them as a collection of souvenirs gathered on our journey from novice to serious stitcher.  She further proposes that our collections of UFOs tell a story of the development of our aesthetics and our skills and that these collections should be a source of pride rather than of troubled conscience.    In some cases, all we come away with is the knowledge that we have no particular interest in or aptitude for a particular skill or technique: a potentially valuable lesson gained at no more expense than one more UFO.  In other cases, we discover techniques added to our skill sets and adapted to new and different projects.  Or perhaps we discover new ways of using or combining color, distributing spatial design elements, or incorporating non-traditional materials in our work.  In  those cases where the UFO is a relic of a class, the value might derive from the group experience, the interaction with other stitchers.  The point being, there is always value to be found in a UFO.

In looking over my sidebar list of unfinished Class Projects heading into 2013, I am inclined to agree with Ms. Christian, at least, for the most part.  In the case of the class projects on my list, I see a very clear correlation between my collection of UFOs and my desire to learn new techniques.  The first three projects on the list, the CATS projects from 2005 and 2006 are perfect examples.  Each one explores a technique of interest to me: dimensional embroidery, embroidered edgings and filet lace.  The fourth project on the list, a beaded bracelet, takes stitching in a totally new direction for me.  My initial interest in each and every one of these projects was quite strong.  In the case of the bracelet, strong enough to prompt me to buy supplies and reference books to continue work in beading.  But still, as other projects caught my attention, these projects were set aside for an undetermined later.  I still want to complete most of these projects.  Indeed, I am making that goal a part of my 2013 stitching plan, even as I did in 2012.  I admit I am more enthusiastic about some of the projects than I am about the others but even if I never do complete any of the above, I do not deem the time spent on them thus far as wasted.  I have learned something: if only that I lack the meticulous temperament for picot edging and filet lace.  These skill sets, however desirable, are somewhat beyond my comfort zone.  As to the various Stitcher's Hideaway Class projects, I foresee finishing these up before any of the CATS projects since they combine my love of cross stitch and specialty stitches with finishing and assembly techniques that interest me: etuis, boxes, biscornus, fobs and needlebooks.  I am more motivated to work on them, possibly because a good deal of the work is firmly within my more advanced skill sets.

When I look at my list of UFOs/WIPs, things are a bit more problematic.  Some of the pieces are intended to be finished as gifts: the Jacobean Elegance Afghan, the ornament for Sean and the Stocking for Liam.  The motivation for those is pretty straightforward:  I liked the design, I have a specific end game in mind for each and all will likely be completed before 2013 comes to end.  In that regard I would consider them ordinary WIPs rather than UFOs.  Furthermore, the Midnight Moogies piece has also been upgraded to WIP from UFO.  It was originally abandoned because I had made a rookie mistake in orienting the fabric and the correction is tedious and time consuming.  There was also the factor that It was started on Aida, a fabric I rarely use and generally dislike.  But having picked it up again, earlier this month, I am experiencing a renewed interest in the design that more than compensates for the tedious border stitching and the Aida vs linen issues.  Another ordinary WIP is The English Band Sampler from SANQ.  Again, I expect to finish this in 2013.  What attracted me to it in the first place was that it was a different sort of sampler for me.  I had done band samplers before nut none with this combination of bold color and Jacobean design elements.  It was at once familiar and different, comfortable and challenging.

Having eliminated the ordinary WIPs from the list: I am left with the following genuine UFOs:

  • Alessandre Adelaide's Zucca: I believe I lost interest because I chose a poor fabric/fiber combo for this project.  Being an A-type personality I feel required to frog that before starting over.  I'll get around to it someday.
  • Encrusted Crazy Quilt Square & Strap:  This was an on-line class and I am still trying, intermittently, to master some of the necessary stitches like the bouillon stitch and other dimensional techniques.  Someday the finished square will be a shoulder bag but for now I content to play with it whenever the mood strikes.  Does that make me a dilettante?   Perhaps, but who cares?
  • My Own Beach Find Pansies and My Own Fertile Circles Needlebook: In each of these projects I had a design idea I wanted to translate to fabric and fiber.  Once I solved the design problem to my own satisfaction, I lost the bulk of my interest in the final assembly stage of the pieces.  I will return to these projects because they both involve clever and interesting use of found objects, beads and dimensional stitching.  They'd make unusual entries in a mixed media category.
  • T. Wentzler's Logo Dragon:  I started doing this in YLI silks using my own conversion from DMC and have since lost my notes.  I am foolishly optimistic that someday I will find them again.  In any case, I do have what is already stitched to serve as a guide if I have to start from scratch, reconstructing the substitution list but it is not my top priority.


Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Good post! It's made me think about my UFOs. Basically they all come down to the same reason - the stitching didn't interest me enough.

whether it was the design or the fabric (scratchy aida in one case) I just didn't feel the urge to pick them up and stitch again. The only exception is one piece which I loved but the designer turned out to be a (insert word for not very nice person) and as much as I try to get over it I just remember how she treated a good friend and don't feel like stitching it. Maybe in 10 years when the memory fades (or I have dementia!!)

Anonymous said...

Riona: I read many blogs (most that I came to through 123 Stitch). I don't often make comments. But, I must extend a "thank you" to you. I was reading your blog, saw your Wish List and was intrigued by the title of MBT's The Work of Christmas. I went looking for the pattern and love it. It is beyond the emotional feeling I get from most cross-stitch. Thanks so much for listing it. It has already gone on my list of must haves.


Margaret said...

I read this post with interest. When I joined my local Embroiderers Guild over a decade ago I made a vow to have no UFO's and so far that is true. One class I did was not a roaring success- I did not enjoy the technique and as it was a sample piece only I did not finish it but cut off the excess linen and threw the rest away. I now know what techniques I prefer (counted work on fine linen) and tend to stick to those classes. Last years venture into Tenerife Lace was successful in that I no longer hanker to try it but I will never make a complete doily! Thanks for the interesting post.